This mixed methods study sought to explore the experiences of students in the context of student expectations about those experiences. The population examined was the full-time students in the first term of their first year in the Business Administration diploma program at a public community college in Victoria BC. The study attempted to measure student expectations and student engagement around a specific educational experience: the Integrated Business Case (IBC). The IBC is a team-based, cross-functional project which is intended to actively involve students in their learning and create explicit linkages between their courses. The research used the Chickering and Gamson (1987) ‘Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education’ as a theoretical framework for both the qualitative and quantitative analysis. In addition, a predictive model was developed that drew on the services marketing research of Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry (1988). Data was collected through two surveys, four student focus groups and seven faculty interviews. Results from the survey data were extremely limited, as a pronounced ceiling effect was evident, particularly in the Expectation survey results. Very limited support was found for the proposed model suggesting that surveys of student expectations early in their program may not be a fruitful direction for research. Focus group results indicated that many students found the IBC to be very engaging along the dimensions of Active Learning and Student-Faculty Contact. In addition, the quasi-Learning Community structure was found to be very valuable. There was also considerable ‘negative’ engagement experienced in which some students were simultaneously frustrated or angry about the IBC process but still committed to their learning. These results suggest that additional research which undertakes a more layered or nuanced examination of student engagement could contribute to the creation of more effective and rewarding learning experiences.
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